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Top 5 NASCAR moments from Dover International Speedway

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Dover International Speedway, AKA “The Monster Mile,” has been on the NASCAR circuit since 1969 and hosted 192 races across all three national series.

As we’ve done with with MiamiTexasBristol, former NASCAR tracks, Richmond and Talladega, we’re taking a look at the top five NASCAR moments from the one-mile track.

Let’s get started.

 1) Dale Jr. wins after 9/11

Twelve days after the world changed with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NASCAR Cup Series returned to racing.

After the postponement of a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the series took the green flag at Dover with a field of full of patriotic paint schemes.

After leading 193 of 400 laps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag for his second emotional win of the year, following his victory at Daytona two months earlier in the first Cup race there since his father’s death after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.

Earnhardt celebrated his Dover win by parading around the track with a large American flag.

 2) 1 in 863 (1981)

Team owner Junie Donlavey fielded 863 entries in the Cup Series, from the Oct. 15, 1950 race at Martinsville Speedway to the Oct. 13, 2002 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In-between, cars owned by the Virginia-native went to Victory Lane just once.

It took 31 years for it to happen and it came on May 17, 1981.

Jody Ridley, a native of Chatsworth, Georgia, piloted Donlavey’s No. 90 Ford.

Ridley’s surprise win came after what NASCAR admitted was “scoring communications difficulty” during the last 50 laps around the 1-mile track, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

Neil Bonnett had led 403 laps before his engine expired, giving the lead to Cale Yarborough, who was scored as leading Ridley by five laps. Yarborough’s engine then expired with 20 laps to go, giving the presumed lead to Ridley, who won over Bobby Allison.

Scoring mixups included D.K. Ulrich being scored 14 laps down in fourth with 10 laps to go before finishing nine laps down.

Allison’s team protested the outcome, saying they finished a lap ahead of Ridley. But Ridley’s win was upheld 20 minutes after the race upon a review of scoring cards.

Ridley wouldn’t win again in his Cup career, which ended in 1986.

 3. Back in the saddle (2006)

Jeff Burton was in a significant drought.

He hadn’t visited Victory Lane in the Cup Series in almost five years, last winning in the October 2001 race at Phoenix Raceway deep into his run with Roush Fenway Racing.

But on Sept. 24, 2006, Burton was in his second full-time season with Richard Childress Racing, having moved there late in the 2004 season.

Burton put an end to his drought in decisive fashion, coming out on top following a riveting battle with former teammate Matt Kenseth inside 20 laps to go. Burton took the lead with six laps remaining and raced away as Kenseth ran out of gas four laps later.

4. Kyle Busch rains on Chase Elliott‘s parade (2017)

In 2017, Chase Elliott was three quarters of the way through his second full-time Cup season and had yet to visit Victory Lane.

His closest opportunity came in the October race at Dover.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver had led 138 of 400 laps and was the leader when he crossed the start-finish line with two laps to go.

But Elliott had two problems: lapped traffic and Kyle Busch.

The lapped traffic helped Busch catch Elliott and pass him in Turn 4 coming the white flag – on the outside.

Busch cruised to the win while Elliott would have to wait until the 2018 race at Watkins Glen to get victory No. 1.

 5. Ryan Newman: Lucky Dog (2003)

Many rules that define NASCAR heading into the 2020s had to start somewhere.

The “Lucky Dog,” where the first car a lap down gets its lap back when the caution is issued, was introduced in September 2003 at Dover. It was meant as a deterrent to keep drivers from racing back to the yellow. Now the field would be frozen.

While the new rule drew mostly praise from competitors, a driver who wasn’t exactly a fan of it was Ryan Newman.

“I understand where NASCAR is coming from, but the problem is, it has opened up a whole different can of worms when it comes to the gray area,” Newman said that week, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Newman started fifth and led 33 of the first 44 laps before he was forced to pit under green for a tire going down, putting him a lap down.

Newman returned to the lead lap on Lap 288 of 400 thanks to a debris caution. He then topped off on fuel three times before the race resumed. He regained the lead when he stayed out of the pits during a caution on Lap 328. He went the final 106 laps without pitting and led the last 73 laps, holding off Jeremy Mayfield to score his seventh win of the year.

Even with the victory, Newman voiced his displeasure with NASCAR’s new rule.

“I just don’t want to see guys get their lap back and not earn it,” Newman said according to The Associated Press. “Once we got the lap back it was just sort of a fuel mileage race.”

 

April 19 in NASCAR: Lee Petty wins at Richmond as Flocks boycott race

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Today would have seen the Cup Series hold its 128th race at Richmond Raceway.

The race would have fallen on the same day that Richmond hosted its inaugural event in 1953.

Then, instead of a .750-mile paved short track, NASCAR’s pioneers competed on a half-mile dirt track at the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds.

According to the next day’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, about 5,000 fans watched Lee Petty claim the win. He took the lead with 10 laps to go and went on to beat Dick Rathmann (after an evaluation of scoring cards resulted in Buck Baker being moved back to third).

The race also was highlighted by who wasn’t in it.

Brothers Tim and Fonty Flock boycotted the event. When it came to qualifying, the Flocks had wanted to wait for track conditions to improve before they made their attempts. But after NASCAR gave all drivers a 30-minute window in which to make their runs, the Flocks refused. NASCAR then asked them to start from the rear of the field, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” The Flocks objected, packed up and left.

Also on this this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen crossed the finish to win at North Wilkesboro just in time. His engine almost immediately blew after coughing its way through the final five laps, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.” Lorenzen survived to beat Ned Jarrett by about 200 yards.

1997: Steve Park led the final 71 laps to win the Xfinity Series race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Park became the first driver not named Dale Earnhardt to win in the Xfinity Series for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

1998: Ron Hornaday Jr. passed Jack Sprague with five laps to go and won a Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

2010: Denny Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 12 laps to go and led the rest of the way to win at Texas Motor Speedway over Jimmie Johnson. It was Hamlin’s second of eight wins that season.

2015: Matt Kenseth won at Bristol Motor Speedway in a race named after NASCAR reporter Steve Byrnes, who would pass away two days later from cancer.

April 15 in NASCAR: David Pearson wins at Darlington by 13 laps

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David Pearson was in the midst of a historic 10-race run early in the 1973 Cup season when the series rolled into Darlington Raceway for the April 15 race.

The track would be the site of 10 of Pearson’s 105 Cup Series wins, but none were quite like this one.

Pearson started on the pole in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury and led 246 of the race’s 367 laps, including the final 176.

The race was a mess, as 11 cautions slowed the race for 71 laps, most of them for wrecks. Only 14 of the 40 cars finished the race.

But none of those that made it to the end would be close to Pearson.

Bobby Allison was the only driver with a shot, but his engine expired with 18 laps to go. He still finished third.

While the damaged car of Benny Parson puttered around the track at 40 mph to a second-place finish, Pearson ran away and won by 13 laps. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era,” it was the largest win on a speedway since Ned Jarrett won the 1965 Southern 500 by 14 laps.

“If David Pearson had fallen out of the race in the last 20 laps, we’d have been here until June trying to figure out who won,” joked NASCAR’s scoring director, Morris Metcalfe, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing.”

Also on this date:

1962: Richard Petty won at North Wilkesboro for the sixth Cup win of his career. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” a caution had to be put out on Lap 250 so that a fuel truck could get more gas. Pit crews were seen scrambling in the infield with buckets and hoses as they siphoned gas from street cars to fuel race cars. The lack of gas was attributed to 23 of race’s initial 35 cars running at the end. The fuel truck never made it back to the track.

1963: Jim Paschal won a 200-lap race at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It capped three consecutive days of Grand National Series races in three different states, preceded by events at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina and South Boston Speedway in Virginia. In addition to the 300 miles drivers raced on-track, those who competed in all three races would have had to travel roughly 380 miles between tracks.

1971: Petty won at Smokey Mountain Raceway in Maryville, Tennessee, over Benny Parsons for his sixth win in the first 13 races of the season. It was the last of 12 races the Grand National Series held at the .520-mile short track, beginning in 1965.

1984: Darrell Waltrip led 251 of 367 laps to win at Darlington in a race that, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era,” saw 25 of 38 cars damaged in some form. “This race was like putting a bunch of piranha in a pool with one piece of meat,” Waltrip said.

2007: Ten years after he christened the track with his first career Cup win in its inaugural race, Jeff Burton became the first driver to win two Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway. He led only the last lap after passing Matt Kenseth.

Top 5 moments at former NASCAR tracks

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While seven Cup Series races were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn’t a race scheduled for this weekend due to the Easter holiday.

The past few weekends we’ve taken a look at memorable moments at the tracks the Cup Series would have raced at on that particular Sunday.

With no corresponding track this weekend, we decided to go off the beaten path and look at moments from tracks that NASCAR no longer visits, which includes some that no longer exist.

Let’s get started.

 1. ‘They ought to fine that son of a (expletive)’; North Wilkesboro Speedway

It was an odd role reversal on Oct. 15, 1989.

With four races left in the season, Dale Earnhardt was 35 points behind Rusty Wallace and three laps away from clinching a dominating win at the short track located roughly 90 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Earnhardt, who would lead 343 of the race’s 400 laps, was leading on the final restart with three laps to go, as Ricky Rudd started alongside him.

Earnhardt kept the lead all the way to the white flag. Rudd tried to pass Earnhardt on the inside as they entered Turn 1. Their cars made contact, which sent both into a spin.

That opened the door for Geoffrey Bodine to take the lead and win the race. Rudd finished ninth and Earnhardt placed 10th.

Afterward, Earnhardt displayed the kind of anger usually seen from someone who had been spun by Earnhardt himself.

“They ought to fine that son of (expletive) and make him sit out the rest of the year,” Earnhardt declared to ESPN after the race.

Instead of leaving North Wilkesboro with 185 points, Earnhardt earned 144 points and lost two points to Wallace. Earnhardt would win the season finale three races later at Atlanta, but Wallace claimed the title by 12 points.

North Wilkesboro’s final NASCAR race occurred seven years later in 1996.

 

2. No sponsor, no problem; North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham)

Victories like Matt Kenseth’s first in the Xfinity Series just don’t happen.

Driving an unsponsored No. 17 Ford for Robbie Reiser (the Lycos decals on the rear quarter panels were there to express gratitude to the company for their Daytona sponsorship), Kenseth earned the win on the 50th birthday of NASCAR.

He just had to go through a fellow future Cup champion to do it.

After chasing him down in the late stages of the race, Kenseth got to Tony Stewart’s bumper with less than five laps to go.

On the last lap, Kenseth gave a tap to Stewart’s rear bumper as they exited Turn 4, sending Stewart up the track and allowing Kenseth to get beside him. It was a drag race from there with Kenseth beating Stewart by a car length.

That wasn’t Kenseth’s only big moment at Rockingham. Six years later in 2004, he beat Kasey Kahne in a photo finish to win the final Cup Series race at the track.

 

3. Two in a row for Tim Richmond; Riverside International Raceway

The first 11 races of the 1987 Cup Series season were held without Tim Richmond in the field. The Hendrick Motorsports driver sat out while he suffered from a mysterious illness that eventually was revealed as AIDS.

Richmond returned on June 14 at Pocono and promptly won, leading the final 47 laps and beating Bill Elliott.

A week later, Richmond’s comeback continued at Riverside International Raceway, a road course Richmond had won at three times before.

Richmond led the final 10 laps after passing Phil Parsons. He beat Ricky Rudd by 1.5 seconds.

It would be the last win for Richmond, whose last nine wins occurred over 19 starts. He would start the next six races after Riverside with his final start coming at Michigan.

NASCAR held its last Cup race at Riverside in June 1988.

Richmond died on Aug. 13, 1989 from AIDS complications.

 

4. The King earns final title at Ontario Motor Speedway

The 1979 Cup championship came down to the wire.

When the series held its season finale at Ontario Motor Speedway in California, Darrell Waltrip entered the race with a two-point advantage over Richard Petty, who had trailed Waltrip by 229 points in August.

Waltrip’s title hopes were dashed on Lap 38 when he spun trying to avoid a spinning car. The caution came out two laps later, trapping Waltrip a lap down. Waltrip never got back on the lead lap. Petty finished fifth and Waltrip placed eighth.

Petty ended the year 11 points up on Waltrip and claimed his seventh and final Cup championship.

Ontario would host its final Cup race the following year, ending a nine-race run that began in 1971.

 

5. NASCAR’s last hoorah at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

The 2011 Xfinity Series season included the series’ last visit to Lucas Oil Raceway, the short track formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park.

After a 30-race tenure, the series would move to Indianapolis Motor Speedway the following year.

But the .686-mile track provided some drama in its sendoff.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dominated the event, leading 189 laps until a late-race restart.

With three laps to go in the scheduled distance, Brad Keselowski went to Stenhouse’s inside as they headed toward Turn 3.

When they got to the turn, Keselowski’s car went up the track and into Stenhouse’s, almost putting him into the wall.

But it was enough for Keselowski to take the lead. He would survive another restart to take the win.

 

April 11 in NASCAR: Chase Elliott wins at Darlington with last-lap pass

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On April 4, 2014, Chase Elliott scored his first career Xfinity Series win at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 38 laps and beating the likes of Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth.

Then the 18-year-old JR Motorsports driver went out and one-upped himself.

A week later, on April 11, Elliott competed in his first race at Darlington Raceway, the track his father Bill Elliott won at five times in his Cup Series career.

The younger Elliott led 51 laps in the first half of the Xfinity race. The cautioned waved on Lap 142 for an incident involving Larson and Tanner Berryhill.

After a round of pit stops, Elliott restarted sixth on the outside of the third row. Ahead of a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag, Elliott was behind Busch, Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Larson and leader Elliott Sadler.

After Elliott gave a big shove to Kenseth’s rear bumper on the backstretch, Elliott was in fourth when the field entered Turn 3 and third in Turn 4.

By the time Elliott crossed the start-finish line for the final lap, he was second behind Sadler.

With a huge run off Turn 2, Elliott got Sadler loose, opening the door for the JR Motorsports rookie. Elliott cleared Sadler in the middle of Turns 3-4 and cruised to the win.

“Holy cow … that was crazy,” Elliott told ESPN in Victory Lane. “That had to be fun to watch, it was fun to be a part of.”

Also on this date:

1965: A.J. Foyt finished 30th in a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he also won. While the record book says Marvin Panch was the victor, it was Foyt driving Panch’s car who took the checkered flag. After Foyt was eliminated on Lap 91 for a mechanical problem, he took over for an ailing Panch, his Wood Brothers Racing teammate, on Lap 212. It was technically Panch’s first speedway win since the 1961 Daytona 500.

1966: With a victory at Bowman Gray Stadium, David Pearson capped off a streak of wins in four races held over nine days.

1999: Rusty Wallace led 425 laps and scored his seventh career Cup Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was the first of three Bristol wins for Wallace in four races.